Tanzania’s extensive plains lead us to connect with the indigenous hunting and gathering Hadzabe tribe who still lead an ancient way of life. An exhilarating trek on the slopes of the acclaimed Ngorongoro crater gives us an opportunity to explore the crater and its vast wildlife.
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After breakfast, we head to Lake Manyara-the old Hunter’s paradise from Arusha with lunch boxes. This is home to the famous tree climbing lions which if we are lucky, we may spot. On the lakeshore we find thousands of flamingoes and other water birds wading amongst the hippos. After a lunch break at the hot springs which feed the lake, we get into the safari spirit and drive up the escarpment and down to Lake Eyasi, where we set up our camp in the palm tree forest at the lake shores.
After an early breakfast, we search for a Hadzabe family, who will take us on a bow and arrow hunting expedition. The Hadzabe people are hunters and gatherers of not more than 500 people. Their click sounds language is related to that of the Bushmen in South Africa and their forefathers may have been the oldest inhabitants of the area. We witness their astonishing ability to track small game and hunt it down with their more than 2-meter-long bows. While they smoke their tubular stone pipes and make a fire to prepare a meal from their catch, we begin to appreciate the diversity of mankind. After lunch at the lake we can opt to relax on the lake shores or visit a Datoga village. The Datoga are pastoralists and live close to the Hadzabe in the area. Once again, we will spend the night in tents at our fly camp.
Today we have to be prepared for a long hike. After breakfast we drive to the base of the escarpment and climb up 600m on a 10km stretch to Endulen. The paths are basically non-existent but we follow our ranger through the terrain. At Endulen, a small Maasai trading center, we have a late lunch and a short rest. Our driver is already waiting to take us to the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge at the Ngorongoro crater rim overlooking the 19km diameter caldera. With our binoculars we can spot plenty of game as the sun sets on the western ridges. Dinner and overnight stay will be at the Wildlife Lodge.
Today we visit one of the Wonders of the World – the Ngorongoro Crater. After breakfast we descend 600m into the crater for our game drive. We take along packed lunch boxes. We come across virtually all game that one can expect to see in East Africa. Ngorongoro is definitely nothing short of one of a “Wonders of the World”. After the crater tour we ascend the crater rim through the Sopa Lodge access and drive to a fly camp in Bulati at the base of Lolmalasin.
After our breakfast at sunrise, the day's challenge is Lolmalasin the highest point of the Ngorongoro Highlands. With an altitude of 3648m, it is Tanzania’s 3rd highest peak. A 17km hike through open grass and bush land leads to the summit from where we get superb a view over the plains of Engaruka in the east. The hike is a little strenuous and we will get to an altitude gain of about 1300m before descending to our camp for dinner and overnight stay.
Today's program is quite easy compared to the days before. We drive a short distance to Empakai crater. An hour's walk leads us to a lake at the crater floor where huge flocks of flamingoes can occasionally be seen. An armed ranger guards us against stray buffaloes which could be dangerous. The uninhabited Empakai crater which is 6km in diameter is arguably the most scenic spot in the Ngorongoro Highlands. On the lake shores we unpack our lunch. A 2hour hike gets us up to the rim, where we spend the night in a fly camp.
Our luggage will be packed and loaded onto Maasai donkeys to descend down the Highlands to Lake Natron. We learn a lot about the Maasai history, their lifestyle as well as human-wildlife conflict and ecological conservation from the Maasai crew and guide. An easy 15km hike takes us to the Acacia Camp just outside the conservation area. The path leads through beautiful grassy hills and patches of light woodland with a magnificent view towards Oldonyo Lengai whose unique sharp crater cone increasingly becomes impressive. The night will be spent in a fly camp at the Acacia camp site.
After an early breakfast at 6.30 am, we descend through a steep path where lush vegetation gives way to scrub and patches of bare rock and lava. At the base of the steep section, we will find a single tree inviting us to rest under its shade. The route continues north with the escarpment wall on our left and the Oldonyo Lengai on our right. The path finally turns into a sandy track as we pass more Maasai settlements. Soon we meet our car at which point we bid farewell to the Maasai crew and the beasts of the burden. They return to Ngorongoro. We drive to the Lake Natron Tented Camp for lunch and dinner and a well-deserved rest. At 11.00pm after packing our rucksack, our driver takes us to the base of the Oldonyo Lengai for our overnight hike to the summit of the mountain of the gods.
After a strenuous 6hour hike, we finally reach at sunrise the bubbling summit (2878m) of the active volcano. At the crater rim looking down into the caldera, we see steam outlets and growing ash cones. Magnificent views towards the Ngorongoro Highlands on one side and Lake Natron on the other are a reward for our efforts. After a 4 hour descend, our driver takes us back to Lake Natron Camp for lunch and a rest. In the evening we visit the shores of Lake Natron to marvel at the colony of flamingoes which come from the different Rift Valley soda lakes to breed here. As the sun sets over the western escarpment, we drive back to the tented camp amidst zebras and giraffes.
After breakfast we may have one last glance at the mountain of the gods and the wonders of the world then drive with lunchboxes past Lake Natron, and Mt. Gelai to Nairobi / Arusha or our next destination.